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Reviewed by Brenda Casto for Readers' Favorite
Henry James, also known as Hank, was twenty-one when he and his partner Harry Gilmore decided to homestead. Hank was actually looking for Sharon Dalton too, whom he had fallen hard for while they were living in Farwell, BC, where Hank had a successful freight business. When she abruptly left town Hank sold his business and followed her to Fort Calgary. As Hank staked a claim to their homesteads they learned that the Norfolk Cattle Company run by Portis Martin had been running rough shod over the homesteaders. When Portis tried his tactics with Hank he quickly learned that Hank wasn't your average "nester" when he refused to back down, but that didn't stop Martin and his employer from doing their best to get rid of Hank. Will Hank outwit his enemy, and even if he does, can his homestead survive the brutal winter conditions?
Mr. McGowan takes the reader back to the days when a man could claim a piece of land and if he became a successful homesteader he would soon own the land. What made this story unique for me is that I normally read these types of stories about America not Canada where "Homesteader" takes place. I found myself absorbed not only in the story, but the history lesson that I felt I was getting as the story unfolded. The plot never lags; instead it pulled me along making me wonder what might happen on the next page. Mr. McGowan skilfully crafts his words bringing to life the scenes he describes, and in several instances even allows the reader to feel the scenes he is describing, from the freezing cold of winter, to the fear and nervousness the "enemy" felt as they saw the Blackfoot warriors painted and ready for a fight. I also found myself laughing as I visualized a shocked cowboy trying to hang on for dear life when his horse is spooked. It was easy to see that the author really did his research with this story, from the range war to the way Hank and his two Blackfoot workers build the homestead. The details really make the story seem very realistic. I also found myself enjoying the secondary story of Hank and Sharon and couldn't help but wonder how that would turn out. Fans of historical fiction with an authentic feel that provides several twists, a bit of mystery, romance, and suspense, will certainly enjoy this story.